Thursday, December 31, 2009

Jesus is coming again!

Today's devotional was based on one of my favorite passages of scripture, regarding Jesus' return. I love the picture it gives us - He will come back on a white horse, strong & ready to save those of us who truly love Him, & to bring wrath to those who do not. This is serious business, people. Choose Jesus - then live a life that is pleasing to Him!

"I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war (Rev 19:11-12).

I used to love old western movies growing up. So often the main characters would get into trouble and just in the nick of time the cavalry would show up blowing their trumpet and riding their horses to announce their arrival to save those in trouble.

Throughout our lives a battle is waged between Satan and God's Kingdom. There is a final battle coming that will see Jesus and His army invade the enemies of His kingdom. It is the great climax to thousands of years of warfare.

"He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron scepter. He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:

KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS" (Rev 19:12-16).

We are all moving toward a day in which we will be judged: "The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books" (Rev 20:12-13). Ultimately, we will all reign with Christ in a new heaven and earth (Rev 21). How you live your life now will determine your role in the new heaven and earth.

Your life on earth is a mere blink on the scale of time. Whatever hardships you've faced on earth will pale in comparison to the glory that is to be revealed when the marriage of the Bride of Christ takes place on that final day.

Be faithful. Stand firm. And see the glory of the Lord. Amen."

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Amazing coffee deal!

Check this out... Gevalia is offering 3 boxes of coffee, your choice of brew, for $3!! Awesome! I love me some good coffee... & cheap is even better!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmastime

I love Christmas. December is such a fun month... cold weather (the coldest winter we've experienced in San Antonio so far, for sure!), lights twinkling everywhere, Christmas trees & Christmas smells. Last week I went to 5 Christmas parties in one week, which was lots of fun! A couple church parties, a get-together with friends, & a traditional Mexican posada which was a new experience... we sang songs in Spanish, I have no idea what we said! But it was neat to celebrate the coming of Jesus in a completely different culture.

Monday is the last day of work before Josh gets to take off for Christmas, & I'm very excited to get some time together to relax & enjoy the season. Each year God makes me think of how Josh & I will celebrate Christmas when we have our own family, by considering traditions we already have as well as things we want to do to make sure our kids are focused on Jesus & the fulfillment of scripture instead of gifts.

I'm excited for this next week, for celebrating Christmas with my family, & giving them the gifts we have picked out/made! I love giving gifts & give lots of thought into what I give so it's always fun to finally present them!

However I'm not ready for the new year. This one went by so fast!! I have had to make sure I don't freak out with all the things I already see on the calendar in my head. Take it little by little... God always gives grace for the moment. Today has enough worries of its own (Matthew 6:34)!

I'll ponder 2010 another time... for now, it's Christmas, & I choose to focus on the Advent season... waiting with expectation on Jesus to come... celebrating the first time He came as God in flesh, & putting my hope in the time Jesus will come on a white horse to judge the earth (see Revelation 19) & take us to the place we were meant for... to be in the full presence of God!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

good stuff

Until I have time to write something, read this.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Proof of God

From today's devotional by Os Hillman:

"For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse" (Rom 1:19-20).

Have you ever had someone say, "I don't see any evidence of God. How can a person believe in someone you can't see or see any evidence even exists?"

The Bible tells us that God is revealed in His creation everyday. Look at the human body and consider the likelihood of how thousands of body parts that must work together. Someone created it to work this well. If it were a manufactured product, it would be in the repair shop all the time because of all the moving parts required to make it work.

Consider the wonderful order and balance of nature and how the seas know their boundaries, the beauty of the mountains, and the balance of rain and oxygen needed to balance the ecosystems. Consider God's signature, the rainbow.

The 12th century Scottish Christian mystic, Richard of St. Victor said, "The whole of this sensible world is like a book written by the finger of God." Look at nature and wonder at the creative design of the hundreds of thousands of species of animals like the tiger, the elephant, the great whales, and the millions of species of birds, just to name a few.

Consider the planet we live on. "The Earth is a rough sphere about eight thousand miles in diameter, which means that it's about four thousand miles straight down to the center. We're accustomed to thinking of it as a ball of rock, but that's not so: the great majority of the Earth is liquid - molten rock called magma swirling, incredible slowly, beneath our feet. The solid part of the earth that we live on, and in whose hollows the sea sits, is called the crust, and on average it's only a few miles thick - maybe ten miles. That's like a layer a third of a millimeter thick coating a football. We live on that incredibly fragile, thin layer of plates floating on the subterranean sea of magma."*

Yes, God has revealed Himself in His creation.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

there's only grace

"During 2009, attacks by Chinese officials on house church Christians grew more vicious. Raids on house churches increased. Arrests & imprisonments of pastors & evangelists skyrocketed.... The year 2009 brought unprecedented persecution to Chinese believers."
-Article in this month's Voice of the Martyrs newsletter

God has recently called me to be aware & to pray for the persecuted church around the world. We can get so caught up in our religious freedoms here, that it's beyond us that millions of people in countless other countries are being physically persecuted for loving Jesus. People are not allowed to own Bibles. They are not allowed to teach their children about Jesus. They are not allowed to worship through song. They are arrested, forced out of their homes, beaten to the point of death by the police & government officials.

So many prayers come to me when I think of it. I pray for their strength, for them to know the comfort & encouragement of Jesus that moment, for government officials to come to know Jesus through the people they are persecuting... but then sometimes I pray, why?? Why do they go through such horrifying, detestable things, when I simply fear that someone won't like me because of my love for Jesus? There is a certain amount of guilt I am tempted to feel when I consider it all - the cards they have been dealt, compared to the life I live. I feel spoiled, selfish.

God gave me this truth in an instant yesterday: every good thing comes from Him (James 1:17). I do nothing to deserve any of it, & can do no amount of good to continue receiving any kind of good circumstance. My life is not a result of my efforts or my self-righteousness. EVERYTHING IS BY HIS GRACE. It is by His grace that I am not living in China or the Philippines or India or Sudan. It does not mean that He loves me more than He loves those being persecuted. In fact, they know Jesus, as their provision, their hope, their comfort, in a way I will most likely never know Him. I can't compare myself to them. God places us all in very different lives & circumstances. What matters is not how much better or worse my life is compared to yours (any measure of that is through the eyes of the world anyways), but that I seek to know Jesus & obey Him in every aspect of my life, the same way the believers in Indonesia do. That I am thankful in all circumstances (1 Thess 5:18). That Jesus is my hope, my supply, my all.

So, pray with me for the persecuted church. Pray that they are thankful in all circumstances. Pray for the Church to continue to grow, despite the efforts of the governments around the world. & find hope in the fact that this is NOT our home, but we will one day inhabit the NEW earth (2 Peter 3:13, Rev. 21:1-8)... we'll be in a good place when we (I'm praying this for myself & all believers) can live with that always in mind.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Where o where is my creativity??

The car is packed & Sage is walking around whining because she knows we're going on a car ride soon, & she LOVES going in the car so she's very antsy. We're not sure if Josh will get let off soon or not so we're just waiting around......

Anyways, lately I have really wanted to be crafty. By nature, I'm two things - decently good at things (when I work at it), & a bit of an OCD perfectionist - in an anal kind of way of course, like I freak out if one curly-q is not quite like the others. This is frustrating, because I'd love to be crafty, but I get so easily frustrated, I quit. I've recently been thinking about conquering that analness (is it even possible?). I want to sew, I want to be able to make pillows & make cards & homemade gifts for people & do crafts with our kids one day. I'm starting by making something as a Christmas gift this year for a few people. It's not really something I can mess up, I don't think, so it's a good place to start. I also have a friend that has a card-making class every month that I'd like to attend to try my hand at that. My friend Molly is super duper creative... if I could have an ounce of her talent (& clearly, patience!) I'd be happy! So, thus begins my new endeavor. Maybe I will succeed.

I'll show you my homemade Christmas gift after Christmas! I am excited about it.

I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving! This is what I am thankful for:

"But when the goodness & loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration & renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life."
Titus 3:4-7

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

double-edged sword

I am fully aware I have been a blogging loser lately.

Oh well.

This past weekend Dr. Ralph Neighbour came to speak at a leadership event at our church, & also preached on Sunday. It was a great weekend; he has so much wisdom. I could just sit & listen to his stories of God moving all day long. He wrote The Arrival Kit, a great mentoring study we do at our church, as well as Christ's Basic Bodies which I told you about here (& lots more books). He is a sweet, yet bold, 80-year-old man that we were so blessed to have with us for three days. It was also a great time of worship & ministry to each other. I am amazed at the people in the Body of believers our church represents, & so thankful for them.

Josh & I are going to read through the Bible together, both of us reading a couple of chapters a day separately then talking about them. I'm also reading through all the commentary in my study Bible as we go along, which takes some time but I love the extra information. I'm excited to see what the Lord does through it; we had a lot to talk about yesterday & it was just over creation - I mean, we've read that passage so many times - but I love how the Word has something new to offer every time I read it!

I'm trying a frittata for the first time tonight - I'll post it on the new recipe blog if it's any good!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Whole new recipe blog!

I'm so excited; me & 8 of my friends are now contributing to a recipe blog! I can't wait to try lots of new recipes that I know they love.

Check it out!! Tried & True Recipe Share!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Scripture memory

Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him & rejoice with joy that is inexpressible & filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
1 Peter 1:8-9

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, & may your whole spirit & soul & body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, & being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 1:13

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Somebody had to do it

Josh & I love going to Spurs games! Josh was a fan long before we moved here, & I enjoy watching basketball, & because they are our only pro team (opposed to Houston & Dallas) the whole city loves the Spurs - it's pretty hard not to.

Last week my parents came down & took us to dinner then to the opening game of the season against the Hornets. We creamed 'em. Then our friends Matt & Whitney (shout out to my blog-reading friend!) invited us to a game on Halloween so of COURSE we said yes. Matt got the tickets from his company & they were AWESOME seats.

I'm sure if you watch sports news, you have heard about this story, I'd just like to say I was there. :-) So during the game, Whitney goes, "hey, there's a bird in here" & we talked about how that was sad. Then it flew closer & I said, "I don't think that's a bird... that's a bat!" then of course we got grossed out. So Mr. Bat flies down to the court & is flying around with the players, who started ducking & moving out of the way of the bat so they stopped the game. I have to say, it is really funny to see huge guys scared. Mr. Bat flew off & the game resumed. Then he came back & stopped the game again. At this point, the Coyote comes out in a Batman costume with a net, & one of the refs is given a towel to try to catch Mr. Bat. That wasn't working out. So as Mr. Bat is flying by Manu Ginobili, Manu reaches out & SMACKS the bat down on the ground, then doesn't hesitate to reach down & pick up the bat & walk it off the court! Everyone jumped to their feet & went crazy, cheering & chanting, "Manu, Manu!" Then a trainer ran on the court to give him a squirt of hand sanitizer. Josh, who wears Manu's number on his Spurs shirt, said, "THAT'S how they do it in Argentina!!"

I read in the paper the next day (the article was really funny) that one of the Kings players said, "Somebody had to do it, & it wasn't gonna be me."

Anyways it was a good time. Oh ya, we beat the Kings too. :-)

Now I must go de-seed some jalapenos... Josh is grilling tonight & we always grill some cream-cheese filled jalapenos. Yumm!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Marriage Memo: Five Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Was Married

by Dave Boehi (from the Family Life Marriage emails I get)

#1: Marriage is not all about you. It's not about your happiness and self-fulfillment. It's not about getting your needs met. It's about going through life together and serving God together and serving each other. It's about establishing a family. It's about committing your lives to each other even though you may be very different in 10, 20, or 40 years from the people you are now.

#2: You are about to learn a painful lesson--you are both very selfish people. This may be difficult to comprehend during the happy and hazy days of courtship, but it's true, and it shocks many couples during their first years of marriage. It's important to know this revelation of selfishness is coming, because then you can make adjustments for it, and you will be a lot better off.

#3: The person you love the most is also the person who can hurt you the deepest. That's the risk and pain of marriage. And the beauty of marriage is working through your hurt and pain and resolving your conflicts and solving your problems.

#4: You can't make it work on your own. It's obvious that marriage is difficult--just look at how many couples today end in divorce. This is why it's so critical to center your lives and your marriage on the God who created marriage. To make your marriage last for a lifetime, you need to rely on God for the power and love and strength and wisdom and endurance you need.\

#5: Never stop enjoying each other. Always remember that marriage is an incredible gift to be enjoyed. Ecclesiastes 9:9 says, "Enjoy life with the woman whom you love all the days of your fleeting life which He has given to you under the sun; for this is your reward in life and in your toil in which you have labored under the sun."

Enjoy the little things of life with your spouse: the food you enjoy together at home or in restaurants ... the movies you like ... the little inside jokes nobody else understands except for you ... the times you make each other laugh ... the games you play together.

And focus on making memories together: Plan special dates and weekend getaways. Make sure you reserve time for each other after you have kids.

When you are old, you won't look back and remember how great it was to buy that new furniture or watch that great show on television. You're going to remember what you did together and saw together and created together. (Emphasis mine.)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Why I love Williams-Sonoma



I llooovvee Williams-Sonoma.

Target is my favorite store, because of all it offers (including Starbucks!) & its availability. I go there about once a week, whether I need to or not. The clothing stores I love are financially out of reach (Anthropologie, Banana Republic, White House Black Market) unless I am at the outlet or in front of their clearance rack, but I always wander through them to appreciate what they make. But my favorite specialty store... Williams-Sonoma for sure.

I love to cook you know, so what could be more fun than looking at crazy cooking gadgets & pans you can't afford but dream of using & cookbooks & sauces & fun things like lemon peel twists? Oh I'm tempted to hop in my car right now & go enjoy it all.

I've only ever bought one thing there (altho I have an apron & pot holder I got as a gift, pink & green of course) - their Balsalmic Vinegar. YUMMM.

I tell Josh often, one day when our kids graduate high school, I'm going to go work at Williams-Sonoma. I would LOVE that.

Anyways, a couple of weeks ago Josh & I were in there, & Nespresso, a company that sells their espresso machines at WS, had a representative in the store demonstrating the machines - therefore making yummy cappuccinos & espressos! So we got some delicious drinks & drooled over the machines that made cappuccinos & espressos close to how they make them in Italy (which makes sense since it is a European machine). SO, last weekend when I was in Austin, I (forcefully?) suggested my mom, my sister & I go by to check the machines out (slash... get a cappuccino).

It was samples galore when we walked in! Free coffee drinks, pumpkin spice cake, snickerdoodle cake with cream cheese frosting, & apple cider! Yes I had one of each. & I walked out with three free booklets - Thanksgiving recipes, Thanksgiving tips, & olive oil facts.

Williams-Sonoma + fall samples = HAPPY me. I LOVE that store!

Friday, October 9, 2009

"The saying is trustworthy & deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display His perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in Him for eternal life. To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor & glory forever & ever. Amen."
1 Tim. 1:15-17

"First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, & thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings & all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful & quiet life, godly & dignified in every way. This is good, & it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved & to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, & there is one mediator between God & men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time."
1 Tim. 2:1-6

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Concert!

Monday night Josh & I went to a concert! Not many bands of mine come to San Antonio, I usually have to drive to Dallas or Houston, so it was exciting that Mae came to SA Monday, we just had to go. The concert didn't start until 8, & three bands opened for Mae so I knew it was going to be a late night, so we headed to Starbucks first & sat & chatted for a while. That alone was a lot of fun too, we need to do that more often.

We didn't know any of the opening bands so we listened half-heartedly, then after the second band we headed outside where the merchandise was. We were standing at the table checking things out & the lead singer of the band that had just played, Deas Vail, walked up & started chatting with us, until we realized some actual fans wanted a picture so we headed off, then ended up talking to the bass player. We eventually realized he was a believer so the conversation became meaningful. He told us about their band & their ministry. They are not a "Christian band" but they are all believers that want to make music & travel to minister to the bands they perform with. He shared some stories & Josh & I were so encouraged by his heart, & were able to encourage him by letting him know we could tell he & the lead singer were believers before he even said anything. Don't you love that? The Holy Spirit in us makes us aware when we are talking to someone else with the Holy Spirit... cool! I also loved that we were able to talk to him & will probably never see him again on earth, but we will pray for him & the band, & will see them in heaven! Anyways it was a very encouraging, uplifting conversation & you should check that band out! Deas Vail, which means Servant of God (Deas is Latin, & Vail is old French, I believe).

It was fun to see Mae perform. You know how you listen to a voice for so long, either in a band or on the radio, & then you eventually see the face that goes with the voice, & sometimes it matches up to you, & sometimes it doesn't? It didn't match up to me. Mae has come on my ipod a few times since then & I think of the lead singer's face, & it is still funny.

Anyhow, it was a pretty small showing, probably about 100 people in a fairly small venue, so we were comfortably 10 feet from the stage. That being said, it was weird because Josh & I both made eye contact with the lead singer several times - usually when you see a band they don't see you too! Josh said he felt bad because he wasn't singing along since he didn't know the words, & he was caught.

& we were out until 12:30! Can you believe it, us old fogies? We were super tired the next day. But it was worth it! A fun night.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Recipe: Enchilada Casserole

I made enchilada casserole tonight & it was yummy. Josh said it "actually tastes Mexican, not like a caucasian tried to make it." So I guess that means it's good? I thought so, anyways! I don't know where I got the recipe (I have a Word document full of recipes I find & want to try), but I certainly didn't make it up.

Easy Enchilada Casserole

Ingredients
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 (19-ounce) can enchilada sauce
1 (16-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes with jalapenos
1 (11-ounce) can Mexican-style corn, drained
1 teaspoon fajita seasoning or chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 (10-ounce) package 6-inch corn tortillas
3 cups chopped cooked chicken*
3 cups (12 ounces) shredded Mexican four-cheese blend

Preparation
Saute onion in hot oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until tender. Stir in next 6 ingredients. Reduce heat to low, and cook, stirring often, 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Spoon one-third of sauce mixture in bottom of a lightly greased 13- x 9-inch baking dish. Layer with one-third of tortillas, half of chicken, and 1 cup cheese. Repeat layers with one-third each of sauce mixture and tortillas, remaining chicken, and 1 cup cheese. Top with remaining tortillas, sauce mixture, and 1 cup cheese.

Bake at 350° for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden and bubbly.

Prep: 15 min., Bake: 20 min.

*2 pounds lean ground beef, cooked, may be substituted.

**My modifications: obviously used onion powder instead of onion, & added garlic powder as well. I also substituted hominy for corn; I thought that sounded better & it did taste good.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Fall in spirit if not in weather!

Hobby Lobby had all fall decor 50% off so I bought a couple things for the house! Featuring some real pumpkins & gourds... I think they are so fun!





Thursday, October 1, 2009

Italy part 5 - summary & observations

Basically, it was a wonderful vacation. We saw so many things that I will always remember, learned about Italian culture, & discovered where my home on the New Earth is located. :-) Josh & I really hope to go back one day.

I’ll leave you with the remainder of the notes I took:
-Italians eat their pizza folded. & yes there is a lot of pizza in Italy. Thin crust, not much sauce, with olive oil. Very good.
-Ambulances in Venice are boats. (Josh loved hearing the police car noise in Italy, because he had heard it often in movies & it’s so different than here.)
-Europeans are apparently really into see-through clothing right now. You could definitely see undergarments under the white.
-It is impossible not to get lost in Venice.
-They don’t seem to use ice often. & you have to order (& pay for) water there. It comes out in a big glass bottle. & they ask you, “gas or no gas?” because they drink carbonated.
-Colored denim is very popular there – we saw green & purple pants on men!
-They do time the military way – dinner at 1800.
-I sneezed a lot. Apparently I’m allergic to something there.
-Some public restrooms do not have toilet paper, or the seat part (you know, the part men lift up). Luckily I looked before I sat in the restroom at the Venice train station, so I didn’t get myself stuck in an unpleasant situation.
-Carnival is a big deal in Venice’s history (like when they would wear masks & party lots). They also have lions everywhere; they represent Venice.
-Florence has lots of motorcycles/vespas.
-“Prego” is Italian for: yes; can I help you; you’re welcome; please. Confusing at first, great when you realize you can say it in lots of different scenarios.
-The brooms they use look like our version of witches’ brooms.
-Getting rid of cellulite is apparently very important to Italians. There were advertisements everywhere.
-Americans linger over drinks (like meeting for coffee, going to bars to socialize) while Italians linger over food (they have 2-hour long meals).
-Drivers don’t get angry. They are very aware of pedestrians & other cars. Honking has a purpose (saying “here I am” instead of, like Americans do, “you blankity-blank-blank!”). People help each other without being asked… more of a sense of community, not as individualized as Americans are.
-In some sandwich shops & cafes, it costs money to sit at the table instead of standing at the bar. -We got a cappuccino & an espresso for 1,80 Euro. CHEAP!
-They switch the use of the comma & period in numbers… for one thousand, they do 1.000, & for one-fifty, they do 1,50.
-We watched a Spanish version of Deal or No Deal in Rome. & there were not nude people on European TV like I feel like we are led to believe.
-I love the Fiat cars there. They are super cute.
-There were kissing nuns in Florence that were pretty creepy… they made kissing noises & if they came up to you & you let them kiss you on the cheek, they made you give them money. But we did not encounter gypsies nor we did we feel like we had to be as careful to watch for pickpocketers as we had read we should be.
-Italians are more formal than we are (& so come across as less-friendly sometimes, but our tour guide Todd assured us that is not the case). They are also more laid-back, less schedule-driven.


I hope you enjoyed reading through our trip! I leave you with a few more pictures.



Where Peter's remains are buried under St. Peter's Basilica in Rome

The Doge's Palace in Venice at night
Our espresso & cappuccino... oh I miss Italian cappuccinos, so yummy!

Fiat :-)




Wednesday, September 23, 2009

September 23

That's today!

The weather outside is AMAZING!! It's been drizzly/rainy all day, & in the low 60's. It's like winter! I have one window open & it is actually cooling my house - am I still in Texas?! On days like this I think it is a MUST to have some comfort food for dinner. I didn't know the weather would be like this when meal planning, but it just so happens I have a turkey-rice deal in the crock-pot, which is filling my house with yummy smells. I can't believe it's almost time to bust out the chicken & dumplings & cranberry chicken & apple cider stew recipes!!

So today just so happens to be the day Josh & I started "dating" in 2005 & the day we got engaged in 2006. Now obviously wedding anniversaries are really important & fun to celebrate. I'll always remember every detail of that day even though it sped by. However, September 23 is a day that we celebrate because it was a special day too. It represents the day that I stepped out in faith & obedience - which doesn't sound romantic at all, but the year that Josh pursued me, when I wouldn't date him, God had a lot to do in my heart in preparation. & September 23, 2005 represents the cumulation of lots of prayer & growth, on Josh's part too, in us beginning this life-long relationship. The next year's September 23 was obviously another day that represented lots of prayer & seeking the Lord regarding our future (even tho when I said I'd date him, I knew I was saying I'd marry him - once we were dating we had no question whether or not we'd get married). So, I like to remember this day, in 2005 when Hurricane Rita was blowing into Texas & most of College Station cleared out in fear of their lives & Josh & I sat in Carino's while I barely ate because I knew I had to tell him I was ready to say yes, then in 2006 on our one-year anniversary, when I had wondered if we'd get engaged that night but had convinced myself we wouldn't, & we went to Christopher's for dinner then to Research Park & God stopped the rain for about 20 minutes for the proposal. It's so good to see His faithfulness in our relationship & how He prepared us for each step.

September 23 is a good day. :-)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Italy part 4 - Rome (Roma)

We got into Rome that evening, found the hotel, then went to get some gelato before bed. :-)

Friday morning, we had our last tour. We saw an Egyptian pillar from 600 BC – I was amazed that we were looking at something that was older than the time of Christ, closer to the time when Isaiah was alive & prophesying… it truly was mind-boggling to me! We went to the Pantheon, which was built in the second century AD as a pagan temple, then in the 4th century, during Constantine’s rule when Christianity was made the official religion of Rome, it was turned into a church. Our tour ended at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. St. Peter’s is HUGE. Lots of marble & gold everywhere. You almost get desensitized to the ornate beauty over there. We went below the basilica, where the past popes are all memorialized, & also down there are the remains of Peter. PETER – who walked with Jesus, betrayed Him, died for Him. I still am in awe of it. It makes that time & those people seem so much more REAL when you are there – these people & stories you have heard of in church for years, you start to see more clearly when you walk where they walked, & see where they lie. It’s hard to explain but I was really moved by seeing some of the things we did.

We then went to the Vatican, which is basically a huge museum full of marble, crazy detailed architecture, & painted ceilings. The Sistine Chapel is at the end. It was pretty, but after seeing all the world-renowned buildings & art we had already seen, I wasn’t super impressed. My parents & my sister were staying a few days longer in Rome, so they took the subway back to the hotel to relax, but Josh & I like to go full-force so we can see & do all we can, so we walked back, going through the Piazza Navona (where Josh bought his Murano glass, finally), back by the Pantheon, stopping for gelato & checking out the front of an old temple, tossing coins over our shoulders into the Trevi Fountain, then stopping for a cappuccino & espresso (for 1.80 Euro!) then at a market on the way back. Josh got some blue cheese & I got a couple chocolates (the guy behind the counter did not speak English, so it was funny seeing Josh try to tell him how much cheese he wanted). We would have loved to have had more time to relax, go into markets & buy cheese & fruit for a meal, etc. Next time, next time.

Saturday was a busy day, since it was our last day there & there is SO MUCH to see in Rome. We headed to ancient Rome & started out in the Roman ruins. Again, one of those experiences I can’t really put into words. I love seeing old ruins, imagining what it used to look like, who used to walk around there. Then we went inside the Colosseum. Again, imagining what it was like when it was being used… it was a solemn experience as well, knowing there were Christians killed there in between Jesus’ time & the time of Constantine in the 300's. Seeing all of this was really an experience unlike any other in my life.

After a lunch break, we headed up to a church that contained chains that held Peter. I’m sure you’re getting tired of me saying this, but you’ll hear it again – just in awe. I had heard about a prison where Peter & Paul were held at separate times, but we had yet to hear about it in Rome or see it on a map, so Josh tried hard to find out where it was, & once we had an idea we set out. After asking a couple other Italians for help, fighting the language barrier, & taking a gelato break (you probably see this happened a lot), we finally found it. We went down below the earth, into a dark room where Paul & Peter had been imprisoned. I could’ve stayed down there a while, soaking it all in. But instead, we headed out, & viewed the Santa Maria Maggiore, a massive church, then took the subway up to the Piazza di Spagna, then walked to the Spanish Steps, where we met my family before dinner. I didn’t get the big deal with the Spanish Steps… there were about a million & a half people there & they were just… steps. Probably pretty if there are only about 25 people there. After dinner we had gelato one last time before we headed out to the airport the next morning.

Summary of Rome: I think since we had just come from Florence, which was more small-town, countryside Italy, we were a little disappointed being in big, busy, industrialized Rome, but the more I look back, we really saw some amazing things, & I did enjoy the city. There is so much more we could have seen too, so I would like to go back if the opportunity presented itself.


The Pantheon - it still has the original doors that weigh 2 tons each, & only take one person to open them


The Roman ruins, with the Coliseum in the background

Peter's chains


The memorial for Peter & Paul down where they were imprisoned - note the upside-down cross

Monday, September 21, 2009

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Our church hands out a study guide for the week with questions about the sermon from that day, as well as scripture & questions to prepare you for the next Sunday's sermon. On today's section, it asked me to write out ten things I am thankful to the Lord for, as part of worship. It's easy, I think, to think of general things, like health, relationships, etc., so I felt led to write out things I was thankful for in regard to my relationship with the Lord. I was able to think about the things He has shown me recently, as well as His characteristics that have been revealed to me, write them out, & just THANK HIM for them.

How often do we just sit & think about how the Lord has related to us? How He has proven Himself faithful, how He has led us, how He has changed us, how much He values us & thinks we are beautiful & worthy & useful to Him, regardless of what the world tells us? He is deserving of CONSTANT praise, & if only I always remembered these things... if only I always saw myself how He sees me, if only I always found my worth & value in Him... I think we'd be different people. I know I would be.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Good times with friends, & fall is coming!

We went to DC two weeks ago to hang out with Zac & Cara again, & of course we had a blast. Since we saw most of the sights last year, this trip was much more slow-paced. We did see the American History Museum of the Smithsonian, & Ford's Theater, which were both closed last year. I was slightly disappointed with the museum, as the part that they (you know, "they") talk about (Dorothy's red shoes, Kermit, etc) was actually very small. It was cool to see Julia Child's kitchen, after having seen the movie Julie & Julia. Ford's Theater was really cool... there is a museum in it that talks about Abe Lincoln & a few cool stories (as in, crazy, not like, wow cool he was shot! obviously), so that was neat. We went out to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home, a couple hours from DC, ate some good fro-yo, & did some good hanging out. It was so good to spend time with them. Even tho we've only known Cara for a year, it feels like we've known her as long as we've known Zac; they are just good friends that we treasure.

We got back & had one day before we headed to Houston to spend time with friends there too! I spent some time with my friend Loren, who I have been friends with since junior high, talking about her upcoming wedding, then the rest of the weekend, I hung out with Kristin while Josh hung out with Aaron. It is so refreshing to spend time with friends who truly know you, who you feel completely comfortable with, having uplifting, encouraging, REAL conversations. Josh & I were really thankful to have spent lots of time this month with people we love!

Today Josh is fishing with his company off the coast, so I'm just relaxing before he gets back this afternoon. We are kicking off our new, revamped membership class tomorrow, & I have been working all week to get all the details together as well as make up for being out of town, so it's been good to just sit back & relax last night & this morning.

So, this summer was the hottest, driest summer in recorded San Antonio history. We had 59 days of over 100 degree weather, & the aquifer level continued to drop, resulting in limited lawn watering, therefore a very crispy, crunchy San Antonio. Last week we had a great few days of rain (our grass LOVED IT), & it is now hovering around 90 degrees - it will actually be in the 80s next week for a few days! I LOVE FALL so I have been trying not to let myself get too excited yet, considering it is still warm, but I see it coming - driving with the windows down, pumpkins & gourds, orange & red & brown, apple cider, jeans with a tshirt & a light jacket - oh I get so excited! Come fall, come!!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Music!

I know I have neglected this thing in a big way - I have reasons! We were in DC from the 5-9, then Houston the 11-14, & now I'm so busy with church stuff - lots going on! However, I have to tell you, I am really enjoying the Pandora mix I've got going on while doing church stuff & cleaning the house for a meeting tomorrow. It's playing stuff like Howie Day, Gavin DeGraw, Mat Kearney, Matthew West, Jon McLaughlin, Matt Nathanson, & even Jeremy Camp & GooGoo Dolls have made appearances. It makes work much more enjoyable!!

I will blog about our travels soon!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Lentil Soup

I'm making another Rachael Ray recipe tonight, which is rare - I always watch the cooking portion of her show but most of her meals aren't something I care to make. But this lentil soup sounds yummy - it has sausage (which is good b/c we really need to get rid of some deer sausage), potato, mushrooms, & kale in it... yum!

UPDATE: It is DELISH! It is more of a stoup, it is super thick & hearty. I made some rosemary rolls to go along for dipping, & it went together perfectly! I made a couple modifications, of course. I nixed the onions (but used onion powder for flavor), put in 3 potatoes instead of 1 (I like potatoes in soup; Rachael Ray said she really just puts one in out of habit so I wanted to boost up the potato-ness), & since I had more "stuff" due to the extra potatoes, I added some white wine I had leftover from another recipe (around 1 cup) for more liquid, & it added a nice flavor to the soup. I think you should make it... this one is going in the books y'all!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Tonight feels like a Panera night

To answer Bailey... the Spinach & Artichoke mac n cheese was not bad. Not super amazing tho. I'm pretty picky with how the things I cook come out... I think I'm a bigger critic when I cook it... it probably would have tasted better if someone else made it! But I don't think it will be something I make again. Which, honestly, is most of our meals... 83.7% of the time I cook new recipes anyways! Maybe when I'm 50 I'll have a good list of reappearing meals... right now it's about 4. :-)

I have been pondering a lot of things lately... humility... what it means to live a "peaceful & quiet life" (1 Tim. 2:2)... obedience even to the point of losing friends (which for me is at the core issue of caring what people think about me)... what it looks like to live Romans 14:22 ("the faith that you have, keep between yourself & God.")... accepting the personality God gave me & living in the confidence of knowing Him... thoughts anyone? Have any of you dealt with any of these issues lately?

I feel like lately God has been specifying what He has for me. For two years I have kind of felt like I was floundering, not quite sure what His purpose for me was... now I think I'm beginning to see what it is at this point, & what it will be. I still don't know how He used me the past 2 years, specifically, but I do know that I have grown more in that time than any other time in my life, have been transformed, refined, given knowledge & understanding, & I'm very thankful for it.

This weekend makes the fourth weekend in a row that we have had normal, at-home weekends... I think that is a record for us! I love it. It is much more restful & we have the chance to spend time with friends.

That being said, we will soon find ourselves in DC again, getting to spend more time with Zac & Cara & see some of the sights we missed last time... yay!

I can't believe it's already almost September... that month signifies the beginning of fall in my mind... cool weather coming... perhaps lower than 100 degrees!! :-)

I hope you have a great weekend!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Spinach & Artichoke mac n cheese

I am so making this Rachael Ray meal next week... yumm! (minus the onions of course... ew)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

He has dealt bountifully with me

The Lord spoke to me through this scripture last week, & I continue to meditate on it, because its truth is amazingly beautiful to me.

"But I have trusted in Your steadfast love, my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me."
Psalms 13:5-6

I love that I can say that the Lord has dealt bountifully with me... not because of my circumstances, not because of what has been or what is to come, not because I have this or that... but simply because He has saved me. I am His & He is mine. My soul rests safely in His big, mighty, loving, forgiving, merciful hand. For that reason alone, I can say, He has truly dealt bountifully with me.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

de-junked!

If you have been to our house, you know that one bedroom is our catch-all. Toby's food & litter box are in there, Josh's hunting stuff, unused wall decor, etc. We don't have much storage either, so both of the guest closets were pretty full too. So this week Josh & I decided to tackle it all. We got rid of some stuff, pulled out things to put out in the shed or in the attic, rearranged, & voila - we now have an organized (altho pretty full) guest closet, another fairly empty guest closet, & a CLEAN & EMPTY third bedroom! Ahhhh.... I LOVE getting rid of things, cleaning things out, reorganizing... I don't do well with junky. Amazing that room lasted as long as it did. But, Josh & I have the desire to live a fairly simple life, so as time goes on we end up getting rid of more & more.


In the church realm, things are getting pretty busy. We are going to two services next month, which is exciting, as well as kicking off the new, revamped membership class with our (now bigger) team that I serve with. So this means lots of prep! It's exciting to see all the things the Lord is doing at our church. We are growing, so we have to work to keep it feeling like a church body of connected people, who are experiencing life in Jesus individually & corporately, but it is so worth the time. I really love working with people who encourage & build up each other, pray for & with each other, worship together. I'm blessed!


I need to post the last two parts of the Italy trip huh? Coming soon!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Living under Authority

"Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake; whether it be the king, as supreme, or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well (1 Peter 2:13,14).

God used government authority in the lives of many people in the Bible to accomplish His purposes in their lives. Scripture tells us that even the king's heart is in the hand of God (See Proverbs 21:1). God uses these authorities to continue the work that He has started in us and will continue to manifest His character in us through governmental authorities.

Moses and Pharaoh, Joseph and Potiphar, Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar, Esther and the king, Jesus and Pilate, and many others throughout the Bible became great men and women of God because they gave those in authority their rightful place.

If we find it difficult to live under the authorities in our life, we'll usually find it difficult to submit to the will of God in our lives too. Rebellion is reflected in our unwillingness to live under the authority placed over us. We may not have respect for the person who is the President of the United States, but we are still to honor and respect the position the presidency represents, and we are to recognize that God has placed him in authority over us. As long as we are not asked to violate a biblical commandment, we must recognize those in authority as God-given and that He is going to work through them on our behalf.

We must not obey the government when it calls us to compromise God's Word. Issues that violate the Word of God may require civil disobedience. However, each person must evaluate these situations in light of what God's Word says and be true to their own conscience.

Pray for those in authority over you.

-From "Prime Time with God" devotion, 8/9/09

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

i'm so brave

You should know that this morning I got blood drawn (just to make sure I'm healthy... Josh will be going soon too)... & I didn't pass out (or cry or scream or kick the nurse in the shins or whatever else may have happened in the past). This is a big deal. I got a shot when I was 16 & hyperventilated. They made me lay down & drink water so I didn't pass out. After that my parents fought (or rock-paper-scissored it, I don't know exactly) over who had to take me to get a mole surgically removed... my dad lost & had to take me (I was 19, mind you). I have had no other needles near me since then.

So it was a big deal that I actually showed up... I was not hog-tied & dragged. I told the guy (in a hurried, high-pitched kind of way) that I could totally pass out & I was gonna close my eyes & he had to put everything away before he told me I could open them. & I survived! My mom was so proud. :-)

But I hurt!! The crease in my arm is all blue & painful. That is IT for being a big girl - no more needles!!!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A prayer...

'Lord, I pray that you would bring Jews to know Jesus Christ. I pray that you would bring Muslims to know Jesus Christ. Finally, Lord, I pray that you would bring Christians to know Jesus Christ. Amen.'
-Arthur Burns, chairman of the United States Federal Reserve System and ambassador to West Germany in the 1970s

Monday, August 3, 2009

More on Marriage

Here are some tips for marriage, written by people who have been married over 50 years, that I received in an email from Family Life:


Solve a big problem a little at a time.

Consider each other's opinions before making decisions.

Remember, you are not the Holy Spirit.

Always be truthful with one another.

Forgive one another as Christ forgave you.

Don't dwell on past failures; count your blessings and look forward to the future.

Have fun together.

Marriage is a lifelong commitment.

Keep courting and encouraging one another.

Trust each other and trust the Lord.

Say, "I love you" every day.

Look for ways to help and encourage one another.

Pray together.

Live the Bible--don't just know it.

You can't speak everything you think.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Italy part 3 - Florence (Firenze)

Tuesday morning we took a “taxi” (which was a boat) to the train station then headed to Florence! We loved seeing the Italian country once we got away from the water. So pretty!

We arrived in Florence in the afternoon, & after finding & checking into our hotel, we headed out to check out the city a little before dinner. (Tuesday was our two-year anniversary so we had planned on going to dinner on our own that night to celebrate.) Florence definitely felt different than Venice – cars on the still-narrow streets, less people, less touristy really. I immediately liked it.

We were walking & turned a corner & saw it – the Duomo (or Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore). I had studied this building & knew it was huge, but my jaw dropped seeing it in person. AMAZING!! Huge & gorgeous & so ornate. My favorite building we saw in Italy, by far.

That night Josh & I went out to dinner at Harry’s Bar. Sounds American, but so not. Lots of locals gathered there, meeting friends for a 2-hour long dinner. The food was so good. Josh had a lobster fettucini, & I had veal with pasta & asparagus, & flambed crepe for dessert. YUM! Afterwards we walked around & stumbled upon another building I had studied, the Santa Maria Novella (architecturally famous for its façade). We ended the night with a cappuccino for me & gelato for Josh. Florence was THE best city to celebrate our anniversary!!

Wednesday morning we had a tour that took us through Florence, up to this spot of the best panoramic view of Florence, then to the museum that holds the David (& other Michelangelo pieces). After the tour we went inside the Duomo, then Josh & my dad decided to walk up almost 500 steps to the bell tower of the Duomo. I passed because of my knees, so my mom & I did some walking around & I bought a painting of Florence (that we just got framed, it looks great!) – I haggled the guy down from 20 Euros to 12; I was so proud of myself. J The rest of the day included walking around town, buying scarves at the market, hanging out in the Piazza della Repubblica, & going into the Basilica di Santa Croce.

Thursday, we headed out into the Tuscan countryside for a tour of two wineries! (I made Josh get up extra early that morning so I could go get one last look at the Duomo. Sigh.) Florence is a city within the region of Tuscany, & the two wineries we visited are in the Chianti zone, which is the only place Chianti can be made. Our tour guide was an American who had married a Tuscan woman in the US, but they ended up in Florence, so it was a great chance for us to ask him questions about the differences between Americans & Italians, since he knew both so well (this is when we found out about the whole no-line thing!).

(If you ever go to Tuscany, check out www.tuscantrails.com for the winery tours. We recommend it!)

The Tuscan countryside was AMAZINGLY beautiful. We loved it. We learned a lot about wine & olive oil, & bought some olive oil to bring back with us. We learned that to test if olive oil is of high quality, you drink some, then suck air into your mouth, & the good stuff will make your mouth get real hot & peppery. Not really something you’d want to do often, but it was fun to learn! After the tour, we headed back to grab our stuff & catch the train to Rome.

Summary of Florence: We absolutely loved it. It is a beautiful city, amongst beautiful rolling hills filled with lines of grapevines & olive trees. So many amazing buildings to see, lots of art, the best gelato in Italy (& therefore the WORLD)… what a great city. We really, really want to go back someday.


Side view of the Duomo - it's so big it's impossible to get it all in one picture from the ground

The dome from the top of the bell tower - look very closely to see the people on the top & get an idea of how huge it is!

Santa Maria Novella

Gorgeous view of Florence

Tuscany - picturesque!

Chianti Olive Oil & Wine



Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Italy part 2 - Venice (Venezia)

(Pictures at the bottom. To see lots more pictures, leave me a comment & I can email you the link. Assuming I know you :-) .)

Okay, on to Venice. We arrived at the airport then took a boat the size of a small bus over to Venice. We dragged our luggage up & down stairs & through narrow streets for about 30 minutes searching out our hotel. At this point we had basically not slept in over 36 hours so we are all fairly irritable. But we had a yummy first dinner in Italy, then went straight to bed.

What struck me about Venice is that it is exactly the way you see in pictures. The houses on the water, bridges & gondolas, flower boxes & clothes drying on the side of homes… all of it was so pretty. I felt like that again in Tuscany too (but I’ll get to that later).

On the first day in each city, we had a tour in the morning. Our tour in Venice took us through St. Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco) & through the Doge’s palace (Palazzo Ducale). I had studied the palace in my architectural history class (get ready to hear that a lot) so I LOVED seeing this building in person – it was my favorite in Venice. There is a bell tower in the square & twice a year four little people – Josh said it’s Mary & the 3 wise men but I don’t remember – they come out these doors & circle the clock, & that happened to be the first day we were there, & we saw it, while it was the first time our tour guide had ever seen it, & she lives in Venice, so that was cool.

The last part of the tour took us out on a boat to the island of Murano, which is famous for the hand-blown glass made out there. We sat & watched a man make a glass & a horse, & it was really neat to see how talented he was, & how quickly he made such pretty creations. After that Josh starting searching for a Murano glass to buy, but the prices in Venice were too high; he bought one later in Rome so he was a happy fellow.

Our dinner that night was so yummy – I had a thin breaded fish on top of pureed asparagus, with asparagus & goat cheese – oh it was so good! The food there is SO FRESH - it tasted like they had plucked the asparagus out of the ground right before serving it to me. Italians cook very simply – lots of olive oil, fresh foods, herbs, not a ton of fried foods, creams, etc. like we eat.

The second day, we viewed the inside of St. Mark’s Basilica (Basilica di San Marco) where Mark’s relics are said to be (we didn’t see where they were, you had to pay to get in that part) – of course, since they lost his remains several times throughout the centuries, they’re not POSITIVE they are his, but they like to say so. J We then walked over to go inside the Ca’ D’Oro, another building I studied in my class, which was a very wealthy man’s home. It is really pretty too. We also toured the Ca’ Rezzonico, another rich person’s home that still has the original rooms intact & some of the original décor.

Here’s a funny story: so, in the Frankfurt airport, we went to this sandwich/coffee stand to get some food & caffeine. We stood waiting for our turn to order, & had a couple of people walk up & totally cut in front of us. Of course we are thinking that is slightly rude, but we are in a different country after all, so we blew it off. The first night we were in Venice, same thing happened as we tried to buy gelato – people walked in after us but walked right up & ordered as we waited. We later found out that Italians (& I guess Germans) don’t do the whole “line” thing – if they know what they want, they walk up & order. If you are standing there, not being assertive to order, they assume you don’t know what you want & get in front of you. Ha! After that we did pretty well at fitting in when ordering, since we knew what to do!

We spent the rest of that day wandering around Venice, which is easy to do with all the streets & bridges leading every which way. We went inside a few churches, ate some pizza & gelato (I had over 10 helpings of gelato the entire time, my mom had 18!), & walked a LOT. Getting away from the super-touristy center of Venice was nice; it was our first glimpse of real Italian life.

Summary of Venice: I liked it because it was our first experience in Italy. But it is a very touristy city, & I feel like going once was enough for us. If we ever made it back to Italy (which I would LOVE), we’d definitely want to go back to Florence. Which was our next stop!

(Click on the pictures to enlarge.)
A View of Venice

The Grand Canal

St. Mark's Basilica

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Italy - part 1 of 5 - the intro

Phew... I just finished writing about Italy! (I can finally check it off my to-do list, yay!). I will post each location separately so you are not too overwhelmed :-) along with pictures.

But first, an intro.

Italy

I loved Italy. I loved getting to know their culture, seeing things that were existing when Jesus walked the earth, eating yummy food & drinking SUPER yummy cappuccinos.

We spent a week total in Venice, Florence, & Rome. I think I’ll write about each city, then tell you about some things about Italy… I kept a little notebook with me so I could write down things I wanted to remember, so you’re gonna get it all… feel free to skim through; I don’t expect you to find it all interesting if you have not been there, but this will be our way to remember the trip as well, so I will be doing into fairly good detail. :-)

We flew out of San Antonio & met up with my parents & sister in Chicago, then flew to Frankfurt, Germany, then to Venice. I wrote some things down about Germany, since it was our first impression of Europe:

-German airports have very small bathrooms. Nothing like our twenty-stalled airport bathrooms in the US.
-I had a German cappuccino, & it was very strong! I wasn’t expecting it. (They are MUCH better in Italy.)
-German “calzones” have nothing to do with pizza, but they are flatbread sandwiches with meat & cheese, & a little salt – mine was really good. I definitely prefer German & Italian sandwiches to American… ours are so boring. They have saltier meats, like proscuitto (which is EVERYWHERE, but so expensive here… why?) lots of yummy bread.
-Instead of pretzels on the plane from Frankfurt to Venice, they gave us Milka chocolate! Yumm!
-During our flight I looked out the window & saw the ALPS! They were beautiful! We also flew over London on the way there, & Paris on the way back.

Friday, July 17, 2009

weekend!

Free pastry next Tuesday at Starbucks... yum. (Click on the link to print the coupon.)

I'm so looking forward to this weekend. We don't have any plans except a wedding tomorrow night (& it's only about 30 minutes away so we can sleep in our own bed... yay for close weddings!). So tonight we are going to have a nice relaxing evening & watch Pink Panther 2. We loved the first one (dancing scene anyone?) so hopefully this one is good too!

I also love love love wedding cake. My mouth is watering now.

I should tell you we also loved Night at the Museum 2. I was not impressed with the storyline for the first bit of it, but the hilarious moments throughout the movie totally redeemed it. Plus, it was in DC so we had fun saying stuff like, "oh, remember that? wait, he would not have walked to the Lincoln Memorial on his way to another museum, duh!"

So, yay for sleeping in & relaxing this weekend. Zac & Cara are coming in next weekend & we are so excited!!! So we are anticipating that as well. :-)

I leave you with something I read in the devo I received today that just happened to come at the perfect time for me:

"You are never more valuable to God than the day you were born."

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

the church

Sorry for the lack of posting lately. I think it's because the majority of anything significant going on in my life, anything worth talking about, is all that the Lord has been teaching me or doing in me... & most of the time it is not something I can put into words. He is literally transforming who I am. I find myself reacting to situations differently. More Christ-like. Yes, I am still very much imperfect, still act on emotions or feelings sometimes, but I can see how God is changing me. & I'm amazed.

I just started reading "Christ's Basic Bodies" by Ralph W. Neighbour, Jr. I'm not even done with the first chapter, but I am already loving it. The subtitle is "Embracing God's presence, power, & purposes in true biblical community." Basically, what the church should look like. But not organizationally - which is a point he makes in the first chapter. The church is not an organization. It's not a building, it's not a Sunday morning service, or even programs during the week. It is all believers living in community. Knowing each other in an intimate way, sharing with each other, praying for each other, holding each other accountable, enjoying fellowship together often.

"We must view life from God's perspective. That means rejecting the error that living the Christian life can be a self-centered activity. While Christ personally indwells "called-out ones" (ekklesia) among men, a fundamental act of the Holy Spirit is to sever us from our self-governing spirits & connect us to other members. This forms a body incarnated by Christ."
(Page 24, emphasis mine)

"[A church leader in China] said to his group, 'We have not seen anyone raised from the dead for five months! We must fast & pray!'"
(Page 27)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

mystery meat memories

I just got a McDonald's iced coffee. Nonfat vanilla latte to be specific. I have watched from afar as Mickey D's came out with coffee & marketed it with a vengeance. & surprisingly it stayed around. & I saw people walking around with McCafe cups. Hmm. It's really not that bad. To be critical, it could have less syrup in it, but who knows if that is always the case.

When I unwrapped the straw & saw the red & yellow lines down it, I had childhood memories of chicken McNuggets come to mind. My parents wouldn't let us have McD's often at all (& rightfully so), but when we went to visit my grandparents, we always got Happy Meals. I bet those ground chicken parts are still floating around inside me somewhere.

Josh put in a new sink last week! I am very excited about this. Our sink was NO FUN. It was divided, & the left side was very small & not deep & that was the side the disposal was on, so when we did the dishes water would go everywhere. Since we are now debt-free (we had a small amount of the 'Rolla financed & worked hard to pay it off fast), we are looking forward to investing in updates around the house, & the sink was the first. It is pretty & shiny & divided down the middle & very deep!! He also replaced the disposal, the pipes, & some other fangle-dangle stuff under there. It is very nice to be married to a handy-man. :-)

I bought a BPA-free water bottle today, & ice core inserts, & I am very excited about them. It's the little things, people.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Marriage Memo

I get these "marriage memos" emails every now & then from the marriage conference we went to last fall. This week they had a list of questions to ask yourself often in regard to your marriage; I hope you find them challenging like I did:

What is keeping me from loving my spouse as I should?
Am I harboring any anger or bitterness over something my spouse has said or done?
Am I relaxing too much in my marriage relationship--have I stopped working at improving it?
Have I learned from past relationship failures, or am I repeating my same mistakes and sins?
Am I stuck in an unhealthy pattern of relating that I learned from my parents?
Do I have unrealistic expectations of how my spouse should act?
Do I have unconfessed sin in my life?
Do I forgive my spouse's sins?
Am I maintaining an unhealthy dependence upon my parents?
Am I tempted to spend too much time on activities that don't build me up in my faith or in my marriage relationship?
Do I have an unhealthy relationship with a friend or co-worker that is drawing me away from commitment to my spouse?
What is preventing me from putting my spouse's needs above my own?

Monday, June 22, 2009

my legs are jello

You know Shred Level 2 is hard when Jillian says, "I want you guys to feel like you are dying!"

Aaaand that is precisely how I felt!!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

oh not much

I love having a cup of tea in the afternoons now - yumm! I went to Teavana with my parents Friday & they bought us the little teamaker & some German rock sugar, which tastes much better than HEB sugar substitute! At this rate I'll be going monthly to load up on tea... but it's so good! I have a cup a day, sometimes two if I have some peppermint tea in the evenings (it aids in digestion, you know, & is not caffeinated). PLUS, I am finally using the cute tea cups that came with our plates... they are not very useful for non-tea drinkers. Oh, but that's what I am now - a hot tea drinker! Crazy.

I'm writing about Venice now (as in, before I started writing you this little pointless update), just so you know... I think I'll finish the whole trip then post each city separately, with some pictures.

Happy Father's Day to my dad & father-in-law!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I heart Teavana!

So I started the shred again on Monday (my knees took a beating in Italy because of the cobblestones so it took a couple weeks to get them back in decent shape) after a 3-week break... although it takes some motivation to get going, my body feels so much better when I do the workout. So I'm glad to be back at it. I never moved up past level 1 because I wanted to be able to do the whole workout without struggling at all, but I think I'll be able to move up to level 2 next Monday. Ooh, I wonder what it will be like!

Josh & I were at the Galleria in Houston on Saturday & we wandered into a store called Teavana. I have recently decided to make myself like hot tea (I have also made myself like salsa, avocado/guacamole, red peppers, sweet potatoes..) so although this store would have never interested me before, we wandered in & started trying some teas they had available for sampling. One of them was DELISH! We talked with the women who worked there & eventually bought some, the flavor we liked, which was a blend of two different teas... anyways, we now love this store! AND we have one in SA, WHOOO! I also bought myself some peppermint tea this week. This is all a smidgen of what God continues to do in me regarding health... maybe I'll blog about that soon.

& yes, I will blog about Italy... it is on my to-do list now, which means, I mean business, it will happen!

coffee!

I just signed up for this deal... four bags of coffee (a $38 value) for $4.95! & free shipping! It's a promo from BocaJava. You pick your four flavors, join, then you can cancel at any time.

CHEAP COFFEE!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Heaven & how we live

(I will write about Italy, but that is going to take a while.)

Our pastor just concluded a series on Heaven yesterday. I think it was 5 weeks long, & we missed the 3rd & 4th week so I haven't listen to them yet, but just what I heard has been really good. Not quite what I expected. But it has changed my thoughts & the way I view my circumstances & actions.

I want to tell you about yesterday's sermon, because it was very convicting to me.

1 Corinthians :11-15
"For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, & the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames."

This scripture, when referring to the man that builds on the foundation of Jesus, means someone who has put their faith in Jesus to save them. It is speaking of believers (which means more than "I believe in God" or "I go to church, sometimes" or "I'm a good person" or just calling yourself a Christian but that is another topic); if you do not know Jesus this does not apply to you.

We are saved by grace, but our reward is based on how we live.

On Judgement Day, our lives will be presented before the Lord: every thought, word, action, every single little bit of our lives that we maybe think doesn't matter, everything will be judged (remember Matthew 12:36-37?). So, we are building our lives with the following aspects:
-our thoughts
-our actions
-our words
-the attitudes of our heart
-the way we spend our money (which is an expression of how we live our lives; what we value)

These things are represented by either gold, silver & costly stones, OR, wood, hay & straw. They either represent what the Lord is passionate about (love, patience, kindness, compassion, humility, etc) or what He despises (ugly words about other people, anger, lies, jealousy, disobedience to authority, coveting, etc). It will all be presented before the fire, & what is left is our reward. Some will not receive a reward, based on the way they lived their life.

I want a reward. I want to build my life with gold, silver & costly stones. Since yesterday I have noticed some of my thoughts that are definitely straw. I want to live my life aware of the thoughts & attitudes I have so I can make sure they represent gold. I don't want to live my life selfishly, living in the moment, responding out of emotion, instead of stepping back & seeing things the way God does - an opportunity to respond in kindness, not anger, or the chance to forgive instead of be bitter.

This is just my summary of the sermon, it is certainly not all-inclusive. You can listen to it & the rest of the Heaven series here.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Just a quote I like...

Oh the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.
George Eliot

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Shredding & Italy!

I don't get much done when I'm not busy. My to-do list is small this week, so somehow I end up being really good at pushing things off to another day. I should get everything done then enjoy my rare spare time. Hmm. Maybe tomorrow.

Update on my shreddage: I'm seeing lots of new definition in my arms! I have never had much upper-body strength, it's all in my legs, so I'm enjoying these new biceps that have arrived! Also yesterday was the first day I was able to complete the whole workout without stopping or putting down the weights. Yay for strength & endurance! I got my mom & sister doing it too, & did the workout today with Haley. The shred has spread.

We leave for Italy soon...! I need to start getting things together. I'm looking forward to seeing amazing sights (especially the Roman ruins, & thinking of the Christians Paul was writing to... so cool), drinking some yummy Italian coffee (I was reading that they don't drink cappuccinos after lunch, so if you order it you scream TOURIST... as if we won't already do that), & of course eating Italian food! We should do enough walking that we won't come back looking like blimps. Just kidding... even on vacation I need to keep my mind on Jesus & what He would have me eat. Luckily I have a built-in accountability partner, & Josh will be able to keep me in check.

I took an architectural history class my senior year & learned about a lot of the buildings & churches we will see over there... bummer that I don't remember much at all. Nor did we have a book in that class.

Anyone reading this been to Italy &/or have some tips???

Thursday, May 7, 2009

30-day Shred

So, one of the women on staff at the church gave me a workout video that she had told me about the previous week. I thought, "eh, I'll check it out." The only workout videos I had ever done were butt-lift videos (with Paige freshman year) & tae-bo, back when that was popular, & I hated that. But I was going to give it a chance.

Who knew you could get such a workout in 20 minutes?!

Jillian Michaels, the hard-core trainer on The Biggest Loser, is who made this video, called "The 30-day Shred." It is basically 3 circuits of - 3 minutes of strength training, 2 minutes of cardio, & 1 minute of abs. There are 3 levels so you can move up to the next level when you want to; I have been doing the video since Sunday & I'm not seeing that day coming anytime soon!! The first two days I was SO SORE. Now just my calves are sore. It's pretty intense. Josh is doing it too, & it's hard for him as well!

I'm going to update you on my progress occasionally. I won't do 30 days straight, I will probably skip Saturdays, & we do have a trip coming up soon (!) that will get in the way. But this is a good workout regardless; I probably will still do it from here on out (although not every day), especially if I don't feel like going to the gym. My goal is to build strength & muscle, to tone, & to hopefully help lose a couple of pounds of fat (those last few pounds I gained after getting married are hard to get off!).

You should get shredded too (mainly so I have someone else to be sore with)!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

What is better than a free piece of chicken?

...A free MEAL.

unthinkfc.com

Living by Christian Principles vs. a Relationship

I receive these devotionals every day, & today's was really good. Here it is -


Stop Living By Christian Principles
TGIF Today God Is First Volume 2, by Os Hillman
05-04-2009

..."having a form of godliness but denying its power" (2 Tim 3:5).

God never called you to live by Christian principles. He calls you to live in relationship with the living God, Jesus Christ. One of the weaknesses of the Church today is that we teach people principles without the relationship.

The western church is big on ten step programs, "how-to" methods and acrostics to illustrate memorable ideas. There is a place for establishing principles to change negative behavior. However, we are not called to have a relationship with principles, but a living God.

Living by principles is the equivalent to living by the law in the Old Testament. It is rooted in the Greek system of learning and is dependent upon our strength instead of being led and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Principle-based living is powerless living. This makes our Christian experience a religion instead of a relationship. "But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law" (Gal 5:18).

We read about principle-based followers in the book of Acts, "The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon's Colonnade. No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people" (Acts 5:12-14). There was a group of followers who liked being taught but never entered the game.

The prophet Jeremiah tells us about the nature of God and His desire for every believer.

This is what the LORD says: "Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight," declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 9:23-24).


Friend, have you been guilty of living a life based on principles instead of knowing the One who authored the principles? Invite Jesus to be Lord over your life and begin to spend time with Him every day. Ask the Holy Spirit to lead and guide you through every moment of your day.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Scripture & Swiffer

You know, I have read the Bible for years, & it continues to amaze me how God can speak through scripture you have read so many times. Today I read the story about the paralyzed man that was brought down from the ceiling of the building Jesus was in (Matthew 9:1-8). Verse four really stood out to me this time- "Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, 'Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?'" (NIV). First of all, the fact that Jesus knows our every thought - why don't I live like He knows? Shouldn't that convict me to my core, & make me sick when I think things that are not pleasing to Him? Then the hugeness of that fact - how often do I entertain evil thoughts? How often do I think negative things about people, or think negatively of myself, or try to find my fulfillment in anything but Jesus? I think I will be meditating on that verse all day - it's too huge to soak in all at once.

I have an opinion about things (ooh, surprise!). One thing I have an opinion about are gadgets that make things easier, faster, more convenient. Most of the time I refuse to spend money on something simply because it will make something easier. Like... one of those things that peels & cuts avocado into perfect squares. I don't need my avocado to look perfect, & I am able to cut into it with a normal knife just fine. So in most things, I do it the old-fashioned, cost-effective way.

However, I hate mopping.

I can't stand it. I don't do it too often (compared to weekly sweeping or vacuuming), but when I do, it's just such an EVENT, lugging that big bucket & drippy mop everywhere. So I finally gave in & bought a Swiffer Wet Jet. WHOA, crazy me. After I figured out how to assemble it (mops only come in one piece, people), then used it (the exterminator left our floors all sticky-like), I think I decided I like it. It seemed to have done a pretty good job, & that wet stuff even smells good! It definitely is not as cost-effective as a mop. But I'm not seeing that it will feel like a waste of money. If it does I'll quit & go back to the ole mop. But let's hope that doesn't have to happen.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Stuff Wrapped in Meat

You know, the way I cook is so not consistent with my personality. I'm so OCD, follow the rules, do things the way they are supposed to be done, but when I cook, all that goes out the window. I see a recipe, get the basic gist, & do my thing. I don't like measuring. I love creating my own spice blends. I can't tell write them down, I just keeping adding whatever it needs until it smells right. I rarely follow a recipe exactly how it's written. Weird. That being said, every time I give you a recipe, I probably did it a little differently, but I know people prefer to see numbers rather than "add pepper till you think there is enough."

The other night I made prosciutto-wrapped asparagus. I had never tried it before, & it was yummy. Here is the recipe I based it off of. Basically, cook your asparagus in boiling water for about 4 minutes, let them cool, then wrap a slice of prosciutto around 3 or 4 asparagus. Top with bread crumbs, put on a greased pan, & roast in the oven, on 400, for about 10 minutes. They are very good, but prosciutto is expensive (I got 8 slices for $3.50) so I definitely won't fix it often.

Last night I made Sweet Chicken Bacon Wraps. This recipe is not mine, but I can't remember where I found it.

Sweet Chicken Bacon Wraps
1 1/4 lbs boneless, skinless, chicken breasts (about 4 breasts)
1 (1-lb) package sliced bacon
2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tbsp chili powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut chicken breasts into strips. Wrap each chicken strip with bacon and secure with a tooth pick. Stir together brown sugar and chili powder; dredge wrapped chicken in mixture. Coat rack and broiler pan with nonstick cooking spray. Place chicken wrap on rack in broiler pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until bacon is crisp.

With it I served one of my favorite sides, thin green beans in a honey butter sauce with cracked black pepper. AND, the Pillsbury biscuits that come frozen in a bag... we highly recommend them. They are kind of like KFC biscuits. SO GOOD.

Enjoy!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Free chicken!

KFC is giving away one piece of grilled chicken per person today. I picked one up this afternoon & it was yummy! Get one for dinner!

I do have more to update you with but my head hurts & I'm sleepy so I'll do it another time. :-)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Book Review: Prayer: Does it Make Any Difference? by Philip Yancey


I have been reading this book since summer (obviously taking my time). God had shown me that He wanted to use me to intercede for others in prayer, & He taught me a lot through this book.

Yancey discusses several different aspects of prayer, such as "Why Pray," "Does Prayer Change God," "Unanswered Prayer," & "Prayer & Physical Healing." He has lots of stories & perspectives of other people regarding prayer in their lives, & did a lot of research about the history of prayer in the church. I like that he always brought it back to the fact that prayer is really just conversing with God, the Creator, the Giver & Sustainer of life.

I have never felt like my prayer life was what God wanted it to be, & I was encouraged by this book & I think it gave me a better picture of prayer in my life. Of course since I took nearly a year to read it, I can't remember a lot of specifics about it, but I did like it, & if the subject of prayer interests you, I would suggest reading it.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Food & Jesus

I really love food. You probably know that. Unfortunately, I love it so much that it really is a struggle to me. God has revealed that to me several times in my life so far. I also struggle with keeping myself at a healthy weight (as in, I gain weight easily, but I have not been overweight for almost 6 years) so oftentimes, when I am failing in the food area, I notice because I am gaining weight (even tho I work out at least 4 times a week).

A lot of people don't understand having a spiritual struggle with food so I'll try to explain. My flesh often desires unhealthy food, or more food than I need, or food just because it tastes good even though I'm not hungry & don't need it, & I sin when I indulge my flesh by allowing myself to have those things when I know I shouldn't. I'm not saying all unhealthy things are bad (at least not in moderation) but when something has control over you, besides Jesus, it is sin. It is really hard for me to say no to a cookie when I want it.

I mentioned God has revealed this to me before, yet it's still a problem. In the past I would realize food had control over me, so I'd make a plan, or RULES - only one sweet a week, count calories, etc. I'd do okay for a while then I'd fail, & stop altogether.

This time, a few weeks ago, I can't say what happened differently, but I realized that I couldn't make rules, or bind myself to calorie limits, in order to have self-control over food. God showed me that I needed to pray before I ate. Not "thank You Lord for this food" prayers but, "God, I'm hungry, what do you want me to eat?" prayers. & that I needed to hear the Holy Spirit tell me when to stop eating (instead of waiting until I'm stuffed), & stop. & for the past 2 1/2 weeks, my eating habits have changed. I don't plan ahead for my meals or snacks (except dinner), but in the moment, I ask God what to eat (& it's amazing how He does NOT say, "chips" or "tater tots").

He gave me a desire for oatmeal. I have NEVER liked oatmeal. I tried liking it for a week in college & it did not work. But I have eaten it almost every day for the past couple of weeks! I now eat what will benefit my body, not necessarily what I "feel like" eating. Yes, I have had freedom to eat a cookie now & then (about one, once a week) or maybe dessert at Life Group, BUT I have also had the discipline to say no when I did not feel that freedom.

My body has felt better. I haven't had stomachaches (which I get fairly often), except when I have failed to ask God before I ate & I indulged (then repented). AND, I have even lost a couple of pounds! I don't say this to suggest some kind of "God diet," but to say, God knows what our bodies need. If we ask Him & obey, He will show us how to take care of ourselves as His temple. That's what He desires! & He desires for us to be so in accordance with His Spirit that we obey in every little thing, even what we eat.

I have so been encouraged in this. Please pray for me! This is a lifetime deal where I will always need to seek the Spirit & obey regarding food. & it carries over to every other part of life! If we followed the guidance of the Holy Spirit in every area of our life, we'd be in good shape (figuratively speaking, altho I guess literally as well :-) ).

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Oven fries, a marinade, & roasted asparagus

I made oven fries this week & they are super yummy!

Slice baking potatoes (about 2 servings for 1 potato) to your desired size (I like them thin). Toss with extra virgin olive oil, seasoning salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, or whichever blend of spices you like. Bake them at 450 for 30 minutes.

Also, I made rack of lamb for Easter, & the marinade I used was really yummy, & I think it would be good on other types of meat too. Here is the link for the recipe for the lamb, & below is the recipe for the marinade:

2 large garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons of soy sauce
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon of dried rosemary
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
1 teaspoon of ground marjoram
½ teaspoon of ground ginger
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

I also made roasted asparagus to go alongside the lamb (& homemade bread & deviled eggs - YUM!!). Basically you drizzle the asparagus with EVOO then roast at 450 for about 10 minutes, then drizzle balsamic vinegar & sprinkle with salt. SO GOOD.